July 20th, 2015
Yesterday, Incarnation welcomed a new Associate Rector, Adrian Dannhauser.
Adrian delivered a rousing sermon, complete with song. We all look forward to her ministry among us.
“Hope springs eternal,” the saying goes. But eternal hope is be incarnated in temporal signs. Incarnation can be proud that a talented and energetic priest has committed herself to God’s work here. Let’s pray for her and give thanks to God for this sign of hope. –J. Douglas Ousley
July 13th, 2015
Clergy looking to upgrade their positions will ask a church seeking a rector what their “ASA” is. “ASA” stands for “average Sunday attendance.” The figure is calculated for every Episcopal parish’s Parochial Report that must be submitted each year to the national church offices.
Of course, each church is free to count attendees as they like. Some will count anyone who enters the church during the time of a service; others will count only those who are present for the whole service. An early mentor of mine said such figures aren’t really much good; what is valuable is having the same person making the count year-in and year-out. Trends over time will probably signify growth or decline.
But students of the most recent downward trends in the Church of England have argued that attendance isn’t always the best criterion for whether a church is effective. After all, attendance in virtually every volunteer activity–from bowling leagues to Little League to Junior League–has been declining for many years. In fact, compared to these secular organizations, the church is not doing so badly.
I’m not sure I agree with this analysis. It still sounds like an excuse. For what it’s worth, Incarnation’s ASA increased 5% in 2014 over 2013. But from my point of view, we could still do far more to invite people into the fellowship of Christ. –J. Douglas Ousley
July 7th, 2015
Never has a modern General Convention of the Episcopal Church attracted so little media attention.
Other than the election by the bishops of a new Presiding Bishop (the “first black…”), some procedural and organizational changes, special funds to black social activist groups, and the usual medley of resolutions for global peace and justice, it’s not clear what was accomplished. Thousands of people, millions of dollars, and a gigantic carbon footprint: let’s hope there will be peace and justice in the church for the next three years. And maybe some new members. –J. Douglas Ousley
June 29th, 2015
I have an almost perfect talent for mis-predicting the outcomes of elections.
But I got last Saturday’s election right. In fact, I predicted a year ago that Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina would be a strong candidate for Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. At the beginning of this year’s General Convention in Salt Lake City, the House of Bishops chose him to be our next PB.
The election was surprisingly lop-sided, indicating that our bishops recognize the need for a powerful preacher and charismatic personality at the helm. One person can’t do everything. But we can at least put our best bishop to the front of the line. Deo gratias. –J. Douglas Ousley
June 22nd, 2015
The 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church begins this week in sunny Salt Lake City. The Convention is always held in the summer and always in cities that are cheap to visit in summer months; a few years ago, the convention was in very sunny Phoenix.
The main interest seems to be the election of a new Presiding Bishop. I’ve already given my opinion on that in a previous blog. Some bishops are predicting that my first choice of a year ago, Michael Curry of North Carolina, will be elected on the first ballot.
What is equally interesting is how there is no other main interest! The world’s largest democratic body, meeting for almost two weeks at vast expense, seems to have nothing much to decide.
That’s especially disheartening when every recent year’s statistics register declines in membership and attendance at American Episcopal churches. May God save his church. –J. Douglas Ousley
June 3rd, 2015
This Sunday, we will celebrate the completion of our capital campaign to raise money to restore the spire of the church.
The program went surprisingly well–the work was done under budget and the funds turned out to be sufficient to do additional work that we thought we would need to do in five or ten years. This bonus saved our paying for a second scaffold to surround the church.
Now not only does the spire look pristine, but we have eliminated the sidewalk bridge that hid our church for over two years. So we are ready once again to invite people into our building and into our parish family. –J. Douglas Ousley
May 12th, 2015
After I sent out an announcement of the death of a long-time parishioner and volunteer, Tom Southworth, a former colleague wrote to me: “I struggle with the number of losses associated with ministry (and realize the other perspective is gratitude for the number of connections.)”
I responded, “I totally agree about parishioners dying and you can be sure the grieving only gets worse.” As I walk around Murray Hill, I pass the apartment buildings of former members, now-deceased, and I think of how I still miss them. While the Lord provides new servants to do their work for the church and no one is irreplaceable, it is also the case that no successor is ever the same.
No one is exactly replaceable; losses are permanent. But, for that, thanks be to God! –J. Douglas Ousley
May 5th, 2015
Last Friday, the Episcopal Church web site announced the official nominees for the upcoming election of the next Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
I will have more to say about this election in due course. As I have previously observed, the Episcopal Church identity or “brand” has become more confused during the reign of the current Presiding Bishop. It isn’t currently clear who of the four nominees is most liberal or conservative–not to mention, most competent. It is clear which one is a person of color and therefore would be the first non-white elected to lead the Episcopal Church. That Bishop Michael Curry is an engaging and charismatic pastor and preacher can only help his candidacy.
There are no women on the list and thus the rumor has already started that the current PB has changed her mind about not running for a second term and will have herself nominated from the floor. One may hope and pray that after eight years of decline, the bishops of our church will choose a new leader. Like the other presidential campaign of 2015, this one promises to be difficult and highly contested. –J. Douglas Ousley